Thank you for the music?

NadaAuthor:  Nada Percan, 25 year old linguist, creative writer and new media ambassador from Croatia. Loves to travel, read, write, sing, draw, cook. Currently writing a thesis about South Slavic languages.”

Follow her on Twitter @nadica92

How many times have you heard statements like these?

“I don’t know what I would do without music”,

“everything would be different if music didn’t exist”

Even… “music heals”

But does music always have a positive influence on us?


I decided to look into this topic and find out whether music is a good motivator for studying or whether it is distracting us. Can music help us to concentrate and focus on tasks, such as thesis writing or studying hard for tomorrow’s exam? Some European students and recent graduates told me about their experiences. Based on their answers about music and studying, I have divided my ‘subjects’ into five groups.

The distractees

These people are completely distracted by music. They cannot write, read or learn if there are any songs playing around them. For a select few there are occasionally moments when they listen to music and study at the same time but this is only possible for songs without lyrics and only if they are really in right frame of mind. They prefer classical music, trance or goa trance so there is no opportunity to become distracted by lyrics.

The focussed

These lucky people don’t get distracted by anything! They can listen to almost any kind of music and still study hard for hours. What is their secret? They didn’t even know the answer. But what they did say was that the same song cannot be repeated – that would distract them.

An interesting thing to note is that they all loved jazz music. Is there a correlation between jazz music and the ability to focus or is it just a coincidence?

The language lovers

This group have an unusual musical taste. For them music can be very distracting, but one exception is that they find motivation in songs which have foreign lyrics. For example if, like me, your mother tongue is Croatian and you speak little or no Swedish then a song with Swedish lyrics would not distract you, letting you enjoy the music and at the same time keeping your focus and increasing productivity.

The bust-a-move-ers

This interesting collection of people reported listening to music but only in the period before studying or writing a paper. Some of them also mentioned they like to dance just before they get down to working hard when, of course, they only listen to their favourite music. After some time listening (and grooving) they are full of energy and motivation – a great start for potential success. But, as soon as they start their work, the music has to be turned off.

The monogamists

These loyalists only have a few select songs that have motivational influence on their work. Usually they choose one or two upbeat melodies which some of them can listen to for hours and hours on a loop without getting bored or distracted. Some even reported that if the sounds from their chosen songs stop, they get tired or unfocused. This group said that the best papers they have written were the result of working to only one song.

So overall it seems we couldn’t be more different, we have different taste in music and music has a different influence over each of us.

I have taken the opportunity to collect all the music that our interviewees recommended. Some are simply their favourite tunes, others are just great motivators.

I hope you find something that you like!

List of music:

  • Perpetuum Jazzile – Africa & Rosanna
  • Lord Huron – Ends of the Earth.
  • Ska p – Mestizaje & A La Mierda
  • Gogol Bordello – Pala Tute
  • A-ha – Take On Me
  • Radical Face – Welcome Home
  • The High Strung – The Luck You Got
  • Led Zeppelin – Ramble On
  • John McLaughlin – Extrapolation album
  • Radio Paradise
  • Johann Sebastian Bach – The Brandenburg Concertos
  • Miles Davis – any album
  • Ricky Martin – Te Recuerdo & Come With Me
  • Emmanuel Moire – Beau Malheur
  • Bon Iver – Skinny Love
  • Bella Ferraro – Skinny Love
  • Sexion D’assaut – Bella
  • Darren Hayes – Bloodstained Heart
  • Tom Waits – Green Grass
  • Kavinsky – Night Call
  • Frank Sinatra – This Was My Love
  • Dream Theater – Beyond This Life
  • Johnny Cash – If You Could Read My Mind
  • Pachelbel’s Canon in D — Soothing music
  • David Bowie & Queen – Under Pressure
  • Orphaned Land – All Is One
  • Nneka – Heartbeat
  • Nick Cave – Straight To You
  • Love – Always See Your Face
  • Nouvelle Vague – In a Manner of Speaking
  • Xavier Naidoo – Und wenn ein Lied
  • Eva Cassidy – Fields of Gold
  • Hindi Zahra – Imik Si Mik
  • Janelle Monae – Cold War
  • Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova – Falling Slowly
  • Yael Naim – Toxic
  • Architecture in Helsinki – City Calm Down
  • The Unicorns – Les Os
  • Coco Rosie – Lemonade
  • Coconut Records – West Coast
  • Beirut – Nantes
  • Soley – I’ll Drown
  • Antenat – Ima nas dovoljno

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